I'm a 40-year-old mom addicted to reflecting on life and my role in this crazy world we live in. Through writing, art, photography I try to make sense of where I am, and through genealogy I try to know from where I came, and gardening, well, it simply connects me with mother nature and her connection to god.
With all of the changes taking shape in my life, I decided my new journal would be one called "Changes" and my reflections will focus on how I'm coping with them. Last night, I began a drawing what I thought would be a study of "beauty". As 40 inches closer (June 21, the first day of summer, the summer solstice, whoohoo!), I'm noticing my laugh lines creasing more deeply, which I do not mind at all, but it's the crepe-like quality of the skin below my eyes, the appearance of a sag around my jowls that seems to grab at my gut when I look at myself in the mirror each morning. That being said, I'm not willing to go under the knife for a face lift (well, not at this point in my life, but maybe....); rather, I'd like to find a way to come to terms with the exterior changes of my body. The internal thoughts as I near 40 are fantabulous! I've never felt more confident or at ease with my self as I do now. That is as long as I don't see a mirror. When I see myself in the mirror, I feel a twinge in my stomach, a "dear god, how do I fix this?" Years ago, when I was in college, I wrote about beauty and how it was society's vision of how women should look that perpetuated all sorts of unhealthy habits. Of course, I was 30 pounds lighter, then, less wrinkled and.... It was easier then, I suppose to feel unthreatened by "beauty". Now, it's different, I think.
As I was drawing, though, things changed for me. Those of you who create art know that the process of creation is sometimes its own animal. My friend Karen, who is a plastic surgeon, introduced me to process art a few years ago. The focus was not to be on the finished product but on the process, how the art developed, changed, evolved, and how the "artist" developed, changed, evolved as well. For me, this drawing was about an evolution of sorts. You'll notice that it looks cut off at the bottom. That's because it is. After drawing this, I decided it needed an embellishment. I had some ribbon that came in my scrap pack from Hobby Lobby, and I thought this little piece of black velvety ribbon might make a nice embellishment around her neck. But as I cut it, it dropped on her mouth. It was one of those "mistakes" that proved too important to ignore. Rather than keep the "What is the secret to beauty" I had written at the bottom of the page, I decided it needed to be chopped, and this drawing needed to stand on its own--she needs to stand on her own.
I've not decided what she is standing for or against, though, and I'm not sure what part of the changes I'm undergoing she fits into, but there is no doubt she fits. I don't think her meaning, now, is beauty. I think there is something more meaningful embedded in her. Beauty, is well, surface, and maybe that's what she's suppose to be teaching me. Maybe her purpose is that and not silence as when first looking at her one might think. Interestingly, I've not felt silent for years, and yet, something transpired while I was creating her that made her "work" better as a silent woman--or a woman keeping a secret--or a woman who chooses to keep her lips sealed. I don't know. I'm intrigued by her, though, and how she has taken on her own personality in my new journal.
By the way, I went to Hobby Lobby (walked there as my car was getting a "checkup"--if you haven't walked to a store in a while, you should. Here in the midwest we drive everywhere. Without my car I was forced to walk, and let me tell you I wish I lived in a town where you could walk to the stores. I would be a very happy person!). They had one lone remnant bag today, and I snatched that baby right up. Five bucks bought me the images you see here. Perfect sizes for all kinds of art projects. My sister in law called earlier and asked if I would be interested in using her digi-scrapbooking stuff. I told her no way. Although I appreciate my friends who do it and although I love visual stimulation of all kinds, I MUST have the tactile. There is nothing better than opening this bag full of scraps (which was only $5, I tell ya!), running my fingers through it, organizing it, messing it up, using it in a project. Oooo the way it feels on my skin!
I'm home from a three-day stint to Bennett Springs to see my dad, who recently moved to a small cabin there. Evidently, we brought the sunshine with us; we had three beautiful days of fishing, touring, "roughing" it and just hanging out. My maternal grandma and aunt happened to be in the area visiting family--my mom was actually born in Long Lane, MO, which is, well, a long lane and not much else, south of Bennett Springs a bit. So, I took the opportunity to visit a few graveyards that I wouldn't be able to find on my own. I called and met Grandma and Dorothy after my first round of fishing, which in itself is a story!
Our first excursion was to the Mennonite community. So this photo of a chicken is important why, you might ask? Well, this chicken is called a Polish Chicken--notice the legs are thick and full of feathers--not like a "normal" chicken. As we were pulling into the Mennonite store, I saw these little marvels running amuck. My dad and I both yelled, "Polish Chickens!" Jake was like, "So?" I had one of these chickens when I was growing up. Yep, a yellow Polish Chicken was my favorite little pet one summer. I loved it. I carried it around, petted it, talked to it. The whole shebang. My dad use to say, "There goes my little Pollock carrying her Pollock chicken!" Then, the neighbor's dogs killed it, and I was devastated. When I try to explain to people my love of this chicken two things occur. One, they can't believe I had a chicken as a pet and then they don't believe that there is anything like a "Polish" chicken. Yes, now you know. There is.
After visiting the Mennonites we walked around Bennett Springs and got things ready for Wednesday. Back at my dad's cabin, then, we started a fire, cooked out and then ate marshmallows--of course! Notice the very burnt double-marshmallow gooey mess next to my head. Just moments later....mmmm...into my tummy, which, by the way, is itself turning into a marshmallow faster each day I inch closer to 40!
After a not-so-relaxing sleep on army cots (my dad has a very small cabin 16X24, and it has all amenities except for beds and bathroom. So we sleep on cots and walk about 60 feet to a bathroom. You have to be willing to rough it!), we went fishing. I love fishing. This was my first time fly , though. Well, I didn't actually use a fly rod, but I did use a fly lure, and I did wear the waders and I did get in to the water.
Now, the waders are not very flattering on a female's body, but no biggie, they'll keep me dry, right? They DID, too, until I misstepped and stumbled into the spring and its rather swift current, and well, I filled my waders with 58 degree water. Not to worry. I had fished for about 2 hours--dry--by that time, and was able to fish for another 45 minutes or so before I began to feel my feet slowly go numb!
Unfortunately, we didn't catch any fish. If you ask Jake that's just fine with him. He loves to fish, and we had the best time hanging out in the water, but he hates to kill things (even the smallest of spiders get carted out the front door rather than ending up on the bottom of his shoe), so he was glad we weren't faced with having to skin the fish. My dad, on the other hand, would have easily chopped off its head and skinned it while it tried to get away. I am a combination of both. As a pesci-vegetarian, I don't eat red meat--ever, and rarely eat fish and only on the smallest of occasions eat chicken, but I do believe that if you catch your own fish you can eat it, and I would have, though, had difficulty killing it. I'd have left that up to my dad.
But, catching fish was not the purpose. Getting to see my dad, appreciating nature a bit, spending time without telephones, televisions, radios, etc. is always heavenly!
Okay, so this probably isn't a novel idea for some, but I think it's brilliant. Last week, I went with my friend Stacey to a thrift store looking for scraps, remnants, anything that I could use in my projects. I found several beautiful old hankies. They are 100% cotton, lovely in color and perfect for framing my old photos since most of the women in the photos likely used hankies just like the ones I found. Here is the situation, though. Typically, I'm not too worried about cutting/altering things, but something just wouldn't allow me to begin cutting these hankies. And some are so lovely that I really would hate to use them this week and then have a better use for them in a month. These are one of a kinds, after all, so it's not like I can just run out and buy another one.
Solution? Well, I took a photo of the hankie I liked the most and decided to print it via I-photo on fabric photo paper. Let me tell you it's perfect! First, I downloaded the photo in I-photo, which allows me to alter the color, the size, the effects, etc., thus giving me a variety of options for the same "old" hankie. Then printing it on fabric photo paper allows for a choice of the fabric texture, etc. Perfect!
A photo of a hankie I bought with Stacey that I then printed on photo fabric, and it's awesome!
Then, I started thinking, "Wow, I could do the same thing with all of the other "fabrics" I've collected over the years. Of course, in scrapbooks I've placed photos of quilts made my grandmothers, uniforms worn by my dad, my great-grandpa's "skirt" that little boys wore at the turn of the century, but I hadn't thought of printing them on fabric photo paper. Now, I had the idea! Okay...for those of you who have already figured this out, let me enjoy the moment of my "new" discovery for a moment!
The photograph of my great-grandma's handmade quilt. When I print it on photo fabric it looks just like an original square of the quilt!
So, I took a photo of a block from the quilt my great-grandmother made years ago. Now, it can be the perfect backdrop for a new fabric/photo collage. It looks so real, too! In fact, when Jake got home, he was terrified that I had actually cut up the quilt and had pieces of it on the table! Perfect solution. I can't wait to return from Colorado and print images of rocks on fabric, now, too. Wow, what amazing textures can be created.
So let's think about this. "They" (using the plural pronoun here to identify the nameless multitude of researchers who've spent millions researching stress-related addictions, death, illnesses) say that some of the most stressful events in life are: marriage, divorce, moving homes, changing jobs, children leaving for college. So, I'm experiencing all of these at once. In the last year, Jake left for MU (now is home, but that's a different kind of stress!), I've gotten engaged and set a wedding date, put my house on the market in hopes of selling and buying a new one for my new family, accepted a new job at Benton High School, and learned that my parents are getting a divorce.
Hmm. I wondered the other day why I was feeling a bit stressed out. However, in reality, all is well. I'm happy. This all came to the forefront of my mind as I was downloading the photos from the last day of school. Below is a photo of me and one of my kids--Yes, I blanked her face out. In the background you can see the empty book shelves indicative my move from one spot to the next. This student is going to Benton, and she and I made a pact that I'd keep her on track her freshman year--even though I'll only have seniors, but that's what I do--worry about "my kids" even when they aren't "mine" anymore. The t-shirt reminded me that I was "representing" for Jake and MU.
Changes, changes, changes. So many at one time. Despite the fact that I'm happy, for the most part, about all of these, and would choose them over again, it's stressful, and I'm a bit worried about my ability to keep it together. Poor Eric will likely see me crying a lot in the fall.
Can you tell that we don't have air conditioning in our classrooms? Droopy bangs, slight glow of sweat on the brow. Quite lovely, don't you think?
So, I must do what I do best. Create something new out of all this. Today, Sunday, June 8, must be a day of rejuvination, healing, de-stressing, etc. Off I go to do just that.